GOD IS MORE THAN WE CAN KNOW
By Uriah J. Fields
Who is man? Man by nature is a seven-dimensional being. Human nature can be characterized as being physical, mental, emotional, economic, social, political and religious. To reiterate, by nature man is a religious being. When we refer to religion in its broadest sense, i.e., as a system of orientation and an object of devotion, then ideally and essentially, every human being is religious. There has never been any people yet disclosed in history, whether primitive or modern, who did not have some form of religion. An understanding of what life is all about, however personal or limited it may be, is our religion.
The focus of this discussion is on the religious dimension of humans and specifically on certain terms that when understood enable a person to have God-consciousness. It is in this state of consciousness that a person is able to live nobly, as he was meant to live, as the only being created "in the image of God."
God and some other Religious Terms Defined
Who is God? While words, symbolic as they are, seldom do justice in describing experience, there are certain terms which, if understood, can help in our understanding of religion. These are terms which relate to the nature of religion and may, in fact, be considered to be components of religion.
Words, like, people do change sometimes they even die and vanish from usage. In this discussion of religion, however, there are certain terms which have essentially defied change, certainly death. "God is one these words and despite the periodical surfacing of the "God is dead" rhetoric, God remains active and the testimonies of numerous witnesses testify daily of their personal encounter with Him. Although, terms listed below, in addition to God, may appear to have non-traditional meanings, a more correct statement would be that there has been a rediscovery of the roots of these words. Sometimes the branches have withered but the roots remain alive. This is the findings of faithful truth-seekers.
The reader is encouraged to abandon the common usages of these terms and accept the meanings given here, or if he chooses not to do that, to at least be aware of how these terms are defined by this writer. We cannot emphasize too strongly the fact that the new or rediscovered meanings have roots in tradition and in the collective consciousness of the human race. Having respect for, but no allegiance to tradition or attachment to history, our search for truth as resulted in a growing understanding of the meanings of some of the most powerful words in our language. Let us now consider some of these terms.
"In the beginning God," This assertion more than suggests that God is both Self-Cause and First Cause, i.e., He exists independently of any other cause and that He is the cause of all existence as well as the Final Cause, which of course, does not exist in the eternal nature of existence. First Cause implies that God is Creator. But God is not just limit to setting phenomena into motion, as inconceivable as that is in finite understanding. He is Sustainer and possessor of everything the "Totality of All Good" and the Supreme Good because all good comes from and through Him. Nothing or nobody, except God, can be the Totality of All Good. God is all of it. As such, He is fully 100% Person and, at the same time, fully 100% Law which may best be described as spirit or love. God is, therefore, the Law of rationality which prevents the world from being chaotic and unreasonable, even though chaos and unreasonableness manifestation of man, not God, exists in the world. God does not will chaos or unreasonableness but it is by His permissive will that man is allowed to be destructive.
God is truly God. He is "God above gods" and personal in his character, supreme, eternal and the Ultimate Good. Having said this, like Job, we must remind ourselves that God defies definition. Job asked "Can a man by searching find out God?" This is not a rhetorical question. God, the Infinite, cannot be fully comprehended by finite minds or mortal man. Yet, with a limited knowledge of God and a limited faith in Him we can have a vital relationship with Him as can a child with his loving parents. God has come to us as a loving Father and faithful friend. Just say "God is," and feel the power. Make that claim, "God is" and, if it is a faith claim, then all else falls into order. It is only through faith that a person is able to acknowledge God and it is only God who can reveal Himself to humans.
There are five other terms to be discussed that, if understood, enables a person to better understand God and his relationship to God and his relationship to other people and the Cosmos. They are:
In man there is an immaterial essence and animated spiritual principle which is the actuating cause of an individual life. This is the soul of man which, by nature has a religious function. Soul is "personality," therefore, speaking of "very man" it is correct to say man is a soul, not because he lives in a spiritual dimension but because his higher and eternal essence is the soul. Soul, then is not just the self or totality of the psyche. It is something more than consciousness, unconsciousness and the ego. Although individualized in each human being, the soul is an emanation of God which reflects God and eternally co-exists with God. It is the "divinity capacity" within man and creative mechanism which actuates and harmonizes the animal and divine to produce humanity. The soul makes it possible for man to be one with creation and the Creator. The soul, then is the spiritual part of man which gives life, not physical life, such as life in plants and non-human animals, but spiritual life which includes the will, a moral apparatus, and a capacity-potential for enlightenment. The soul is both immaterial and immoral. It is preexistence (before the body lives), post-existence (after the body dies), and a sum of enduring capacities for consciousness, consisting of will thought, joy, grief, and the like. As the spiritual center of man the soul is self-propelled and independent of the somatic and mental dimensions of human existence. Yet, in spite of its autonomy it is a central force in the functioning and harmonization of the human being whose tendency is toward what may be called good, love and health. The soul responds to body and mind needs and concerns. "Peace of soul," "making of the soul" and a "soulful state"are terms some used to describe the nature and function of the soul. When man's condition embraces or expresses these soul states he is functioning in higher consciousness - experiencing salvation in the now. He is at that moment, in Paradise and on a higher level of consciousness than original man, who existed in lower consciousness, as reflected in his his innocence.
Word of God
When we hear the expression, "Word of God" it is likely that Scriptures, sacred writings or the Holy Bible come to our minds, and not anything more. But sacred writings, such as the Bible, Torah, Koran and Bhagavid Gita, are not exclusively the Word of God.
This is not to say that they are not the Word of God, and as such may reveal God dimly as is true in any vicarious experience. In that dim sense God does speak to a person through Scriptures. But God is not limited and He chooses many ways to speak His Word. God is both Message and Messenger. Therefore, when He speaks His Word a person does not have a vicarious experience, but a personal experience in the now with God Himself. The Word of God is non-transferable and cannot be delivered by anyone else other than God Himself. The Word of God, like God, yields to no proxy. John, a Gospel writer, declares: "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." This statement denotes the nature of the Word and how it is manifested.
God speaks in and through nature. Specifically, He may speak in a sunset, a flower, the ocean or a rock. The Prophet Elijah heard Him speak in "a still small voice" and the composer of that moving spiritual, "Steal Away" exclaims: "He calls me by the thunder." God speaks in any way he chooses and through whoever and whatever he chooses.
Revelation is what, more correctly, may be called "progressive revelation" is a manner or process by which God speaks to man. He reveals Himself perpetually through His word which illuminates, enlightens and expands the consciousness of the person who moves toward completion of himself, hence "toward completion of Creation" or Oneness. Without progressive revelation man is trapped in his past and deprived of a vision. Revelation is the fuel for evolution and transformation. When these factors are lacking degeneracy and decay plague civilization. It is important to know that revelation is not knowledge about God. revelation is God Himself acting in power as He expresses his goodness and love. Revelation is God intervening in human personality and the affairs of men.
The Word of God then is the message God communicates about Himself. Recipients of His Word hear his voice and not just with their physical ears. They perceive it through a sense beyond the five senses. They see it through "eyes of faith," and listen to it with the "third ear," knowing intuitively that God is present in their lives in a personal way and that He has come to reveal to them more clearly than before who He is. Awareness and a willingness to hear from God are essentials for the person who would receive the Word of God. Although focusing is important, awareness must not be restricted because God speaks in diverse ways and sometimes, as we have seen, in quietness.
Having free will man possesses the ability to obey or disobey God. Adam who had heard the Word of God was not restrained or manipulated by God so he would not partake of the tree in the midst of the Garden of Eden. God does not compel man to hear His Word or obey Him. But rather, he invites man to choose life. How can we know that it is God who is speaking? Although God, the Alpha and Omega, as well as all that links them, even before and after, speaks in many ways, at sundry times in diverse manners, and through numerous channels and instruments, He speaks with clarity and definitiveness of purpose. He speaks the message of none other than Himself and none other than He can speak His message.
The Bible reminds us that "Faith comes by hearing." Knowing God's Word comes by faith. Suffice that we comment on faith in connection with the Word of God by stating that faith is the conviction that the destinies of the universe, of mankind and of each individual are ultimately controlled by the eternal and living will of goodness and that we may enter now into communion with the eternal and living will of goodness as we listen to His voice and, beyond that, understand the personal message which comes to us from a personal God who does not speak with the intention of confusing us but rather to enlighten us. Furthermore, we can be assured that He knows our ability and willingness to know the truth. We can know the truth only as we know Him. He is the Truth and His Word is eternal.
Because the ultimate objective or reason for focusing on the religious nature of man is to present the religious form that promotes salvation - health - it is necessary to understand faith. Any religion is not good enough, i.e., if man is to be free and live victoriously. Our conviction is that vital religion is faith-centered. Following a law, complying with rules and regulations, even doing good can never be a substitute for or be misconstrued to be fruits of faith in and of themselves. Of course, it is much more likely that a person who possesses faith will do more good than a faithless person or one having only "barely" faith. "O you of little faith" remains a barrier to man's well-being today just as it did nearly two thousand years ago when Jesus informed His disciples that their ineffectiveness and lack of empowerment can be attributed to a minuscule faith.
Faith is religion and at the same time it transcends religion. It is not primarily belief as frequently advocated by believers - who may call themselves the faithful or "true believers," Faith is the quality of certainty. It cannot be, as some suppose, "blind faith," "bad faith," or "irrational faith," nor is it "assent" which is perceived by most religious people as a kind of belief. To believe that God is may very well be only assent. To trust "in" or surrender unto God is faith. There are many things we believe without any thought of believing or trusting them. We believe, in a way, all sorts of facts we are informed of by competent authorities. On the other hand, there are many things to accept, even know, which are matters of intense personal conviction. Faith too can be tested by experience in the reality of living.
Faith, then, is the state of being ultimately concerned. Although man, like all living beings is concerned about many things they are not ultimate concerns. Unlike other living beings, man has spiritual concerns, and each of them, in a definite way, claims ultimacy for the person or the life of a social group. And as Paul Tillich reminds us, "If it claims ultimacy it demands the total fulfillment even if all other claims have to be subjected to it or rejected in its name."
While it is true that faith is rooted in one's observation and judgements, it is not an act of reason. Karl Barth, although emphatic, is correct in saying, "Faith takes reason by the throat and strangles the brute," when there is an encounter involving reason's attempt to undercut faith. As Kierkegaard put it, a "leap of faith, is the nature of the process. This leap of faith is nothing less than a total risk, surrender and commitment to God who remains to us partly unknown and in some respects unknowable. To be aware of God's intervention in human affairs and His distinctive presence, one must be capable of perceiving God through the "eyes of faith." Commitment, which can be expressed in the personal declaration: "This I am" is a moral choice which involves a person in a definite course of action centered in the ultimacy of existence as he understands it. Faith involves claim to truth but at the same time it is open to the unfoldment and discovery of truth.
Faith is not a phenomenon among phenomena, but he central phenomenon of soul and of man's life. Being numinous it fills a person with a sense of the presence of divinity. For the story of mankind - a saga not duplicated or paralleled in all history - reveals that only as we yield our lives to God, seeking as children rather than adults, to fulfill our potentials, the limits thereof having been established by the Creator is more life given to us continually as we experience more meaning individually and as a group.
Faith is awareness of a purpose and of a principle of direction which enables us to travel life's journey hopefully through new and challenging circumstances because we know that our living is the process that produces fulfillment, not tomorrow, but now. To have faith is to be grasped by the unconditional which is beyond man. Habakkah and Old Testament prophet, helps us to understand unconditional faith when he exclaims:
Although the fig tree shall not blossom,
neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor
of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall
yield no meat: the flock shall be cut off from
the fold, and there shall be no herd in the
stalls; Yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will joy
in the God of my salvation.
What is truth? This seems to be an automatic, if not natural question to ask when the truth issue is raised. Is truth an absolute or relative? Does a proposition or statement corresponding to reality has to be true or can it be false? can it be part true and part false? Does all truth originate from a single source? These questions have been addressed, with a varying degree of correctness and effectiveness by philosophers, from Pythagoras to John Dewey and by sages before them. However, the search for truth, ability to perceive and utilize it, have not been restricted to philosophers and sages. Truth confronts every person, i.e., every person who faces reality and even those who seek to escape reality or deny that it exists.
Falsehood also confronts every man. Truth and falsehood are not sharply defined opposites, as we commonly supposed. There is not anything that is wholly false and there is not anything that we can know that is wholly true. We can know in a way that something is false. Such question as "Where was Alexander the Great born?" has a straightforward answer, which is true in a sense, but not in the philosophical or theological sense. For both philosophy and religion the truth is the whole, not the partial, which includes nearly all that we purport to know.
Various theories and views about truth have been expressed. They are generally in accord with C.S. Pierce's statement which says, "Truth is the opinion which is fated to be ultimately agreed to by all who investigate." Regardless to the theory of truth embraced we must consider two major questions about truth. One asks what is the test of truth? the other inquires into the nature of truth. To the first question the empiricist asserts that experience provides the only test of truth. The rationalist or scientist who makes successive approximations to the truth, for example, truth of mathematics, has a degree of certainty not some rational facility of intuition.
As for the nature of truth, we may gain some insight by considering two theories about truth. The "correspondence theory" of truth asserts that a proposition is true if and only if it corresponds to a fact or describes or refers to a state of affairs that is as described. The "Pragmatic theory" of truth like the correspondence theory, holds that ideas are true if and only if they agree with reality. It insists that the agreement must be experienced in pragmatic terms. True ideas are those which it is useful or expedient to believe.
Reality is existence and it includes the whole of things. According to Hegel, he separate things of which the world seems to be composed are not simply illusions, each has a greater or lesser degree of reality and its reality consists of an aspect of the whole. The whole he calls "The Absolute." Spinoza observes that "The Absolute" is spiritual. Reality, therefore, is God. But since God is not always discernable, certainly not describable, at times, we may not find reality, and living a make-believe existence may become the rule rather than the exception for many, maybe for the majority, in our society. Because we see in part, truth, if it is to be experienced and known, has to be a transient fundamental or spiritual reality. God is Spirit, but Spirit cannot be seen with the eyes and it has attributes other than those possessed by humans. We can best recognize and understand God as love. God's manifestation of Himself to man is in acts of love. Truth, therefore. is internalized by man and God expressing love. God's love is total love, even though we experience it in "particulars" and in the moment rather than in "general" and permanently. Nevertheless, His love is eternal - now and forever. Now, we can only see in part.
Meister Eckhart asked, "What is truth?" And answered it by stating. "Truth is something so noble that if God could turn aside from it, I could keep to the truth and let God go." ...
Now that we have obtained a measure of truth the the question can be raised "What are we to do with truth?"... "Are there times when a person should tell a lie or even live a lie, such as living as a pauper in order to protect himself from a robber or murderer who would take his wealth if he knew he possessed it and maybe his life?...
There are times when a person should tell a lie. The Bible states that Abraham told Abimelech that Sarah was his sister in order to save his own life. (Sarah was his wife.) But how can one justify "telling a lie?" First, remember, as indicated earlier, all truths are only partial truths. Second, realize that humans are rational beings, endowed with wisdom and a capability for making judgments which can either enhance themselves and others or in some way diminish themselves and others. More importantly, people must operate from love which is the only absolute. Love is the good we do and it alone when well served is always good and right in every situation. When love directs a person, to tell a lie, obey the voice of love. Love expresses grace, dispenses mercy and remains the greatest power in the universe. (Love will be discussed next as the final religious term to be considered in this discourse.) Telling a lie can never be justified other than when it is done in response to and at the bidding of love.
Truth is the measure of a man's capacity to promise. When we can no longer promise our betrothal is dissolved in disgrace and we become wolves with an insatiable hunger to devour ourselves and those who are too gentle to live, or is it, too honest to live, among wolves.
Our courage to be truthful must forever remain at the pinnacle of the human soul, being excelled or superseded only by love which directs truth's course in producing ultimate good in relationships where each person regards other persons as worthy to bear the truth and share responsibilities of honesty in facing and handling reality.
Love is the last term to be discussed in this discourse on religion. Love is an essential quality of and central theme in every religion. Spiritual awareness, spiritual expression and spiritual growth, manifestations of God-consciousness, cannot exist without love.
Because there are misunderstandings about love, it is incumbent upon the author to define love. However, before offering a definition of love a few observations about love are in order. First, we need to realize that love is a power. In several previous works, this writer employed the term "love-power." Such references to love is not without significance. Misinterpretations of love, false premises about love, plus widespread tendencies on the part of some people to view love as being more childish than manly, have contributed to a general feeling that love is powerless. Some people believe that love and Christmas are for children. Love is not important. Nothing can be further from the truth than this. Love is strong and powerful. If "faith can remove mountains" then love can create brotherhood and community. Love is the ultimate power in the universe...and the strongest emotion of the human heart.
Some years ago, this writer delivered a lecture to persons attending the A.M.S School of Alcohol and Narcotic Education at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada. In his lecture, he emphasized "power" as the central characteristic of love. His thesis was challenged by a number of students and some members of the faculty. A few years later, when he presented a lecture-reading as an exploratory project for the credit course, "The Role of Love in Western Society" at the University of California Extension at Los Angeles (the first course of its kind to be offered at that University), there was a similar reaction to his talk as the one which had occurred in Canada. Yet, this writer has found nothing in his experience as a minister, teacher, counselor, human relations consultant, researcher and student who continues to seek a growing understanding of love that would cause him to eliminate the word "power" from the composition and expression of love. To the contrary, it appears increasingly clear that the term "love-power" communicates more correctly and effectively, when understood, the true meaning of love. Therefore, in our discussion we will use "love-power" interchangeable with love. ...
... love is good. In this sense, love is a verb rather than a noun. Love is the good we do. This is our succinct definition of love... Joseph Fletcher speaks wisely when he says, "...love alone when well served is always good and right in every situation."
St. John was known as Jesus' "beloved disciple." When Jesus was dying on the cross, He said to him, "Behold my mother." This can only indicate that St. John, Jesus' beloved disciple, had to know something about love. Jesus wanted him to befriend and take care of his mother. This is what St. John had to say:
"We know what love is from the fact that
Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. We
too, ought to lay down our lives for our
brothers... Beloved, let us love one another,
because love takes its origin in God,and
everyone that loves is a child of God and
knows God. He who has no love does not
know God, because God is love...No one
has seen God, yet if we love one another,
God abides in us and our love for him
Give all to love.
(From "Religion Par Excellence: Actualization of the Seven Storey Nature of Man" by Uriah J. Fields, pp. 76ff)
Copyright 1991 and 2015 by Uriah J. Fields